Following the recent Vietnamese construction boom and its rapidly growing demand for construction materials such a sand and gravel, illegal sand extraction along the Dong Nai River has drastically increased during the last decade, in spite of provincial and national efforts to ban sand mining activities .
Large-scale river sand extraction has strong negative impacts on the environment and the local economy, including include riverbank erosion; removal of organic matter relevant to aquatic organisms; changing temperature and water flow dynamics associated to a loss of aquatic habitats; siltation; noise pollution; damages to nearby infrastructure; as well as reduced fish stock; loss of river dikes and associated agricultural areas . In Dong Nai province, sand mining has been associated to many cases of heavy land erosion and land-slides caused by changing hydrological dynamics, during which people have lost their land, their orchards and their houses to the river .
While some people were forced to relocate their houses , other residents were reported to have died in such land-slides .
The local government and police have tried to control the situation, but complain that they lack staff and resources to effectively counteract illegal sand mining. Illegal sand miners, in turn, are well organized and often have their own guards to watch if any inspectors arrive, in order to timely warn their colleagues to get away. While some vessels could be seized by the police, inspections have also caused confrontations between the sand miners and the police. Fines for sand mining are also too low and people demand much higher penalties [1;4].
In response to the lack of public action against river sand extraction, villagers have launched an online petition to the Bien Hoa City environmental police and the Dong Nai Department of Natural Resources and Environment, demanding better monitoring and protection of the rivers . Furthermore, they have started to set up their own watch teams that would stay out during night to guard the area. However, encounters with sand miners have often resulted in violent clashes, leading to injured villagers [1;3;4].
Due to the illicit nature of the highly organized illegal activities and the lack of public resources to control the situation, it has become very difficult to end the problems of illegal sand mining, caused by a rapidly growing construction sector. As one police officer stated in an interview with Viet Nam News: "The fight against illegal sand exploitation will end when there is no demand for construction.” .